HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners will discuss whether alternate mobility share services should be allowed in the city and how they would be regulated at a work session later this month.
With a moratorium in effect blocking alternate transportation share services, including docked and dockless bicycles and electric scooters, commissioners have time to work on how they want to regulate these businesses, if they want them in the city at all, and if they want to allow docking stations on public property.
A share service operates differently than a rental agency. While rentals are done for a day, a week or more, a share service can be done through a smartphone application for only a few minutes to get the user from point A to point B.
Commissioner Carol Soustek said that while she doesn’t have a problem with docked bicycle share services, such as the one proposed by Mobile Muttley’s owners Tracy Thrall and Tom Pechous, she doesn’t want the electric scooters and undocked bicycle share services to come to Holmes Beach.
“We have limited road access,” she said. “We have to be careful what we put on them.”
She also said that if some sort of share service did come to the community, she wants to make sure that the equipment is controlled and maintained by the owners and that it doesn’t add clutter to already busy streets and sidewalks.
Standing in for City Attorney Patricia Petruff was attorney Thomas Thanus, who told commissioners that Florida law prohibits the use of electric scooters on roadways and bicycle lanes but allows them on sidewalks, which might merit further conversation about regulations for that mode of transportation. Soustek and Commissioner Pat Morton both agreed that neither wants electric scooters allowed on sidewalks.
Morton expressed concern that allowing a share service might hurt the mom and pop bicycle rental stores on the Island. He also said he’s worried about the number of bicycles that share services would want to bring to Holmes Beach. While he said he’s not a fan of either type of service, he’d rather see a docked bicycle share service instead of a dockless one.
Commissioner Kim Rash said he doesn’t believe in allowing anyone to use the public right of way for a for-profit business. He also said that he’s not in favor of allowing a mobility share service at all in the city and that none of the residents he spoke with were in favor either.
Commissioner Jim Kihm gave his fellow commissioners several alternatives to an outright ban on the services including limiting the number of bicycles allowed for the service in Holmes Beach, designating areas near trolley stops for mobility share services, requiring regular inspections of bicycles used by share services, giving companies a probationary period and requiring removal of all equipment if faced with an oncoming tropical storm.
“I don’t want to close the door on this,” Morton said. “The public should have their say.”
“I think it needs more discussion,” Kihm said.